After several years of declining shipments, mainly due to falling light vehicle production in North America, the metal powder industry has returned to its growth track according to Michael E. Lutheran, president of the Metal Powder Industries Federation (MPIF), said during PowderMet2010.
Speaking at the June 2010 International Conference on Powder Metallurgy & Particulate Materials, held in Hollywood, FL, Lutheran said a 28% rebound in iron powder shipments in the second half of the year wasn't enough to overcome earlier year losses, and 2009 total iron powder shipments were down 25% from 2008 to 244,839 short tons.
The industry, he said, had experienced five years of dwindling powder demand and hit bottom in 2009.
Copper and copper-base powder shipments declined 24% to 13,239 short tons in 2009.
But a strong rebound in the 2009 fourth quarter continued into the first quarter of 2010, with iron powder soaring 64% above 1Q 2009 to 88,410 short tons. First quarter 2010 copper and copper-base powder shipments rose 36% to 3,977 short tons.
The light-vehicle market remains the dominant force impacting the powder metallurgy (PM) industry.
Lutheran said the U.S. metal injection molding (MIM) business performed fairly well in 2009, supported by growing medical devise and firearms markets.
The MIM business is expected to continue its growth by replacing complex CNC-machined parts and investment castings.
The U.S. MIM market was estimated at $170–$200 million annually; Europe's market is about the same size.
The Asian market (Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, and China) is estimated at $300 million. The Asian focuses on electronics and consumer products.
The total annual worldwide MIM market is estimated at $640 to $700 million.
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